Berea College is moving to seek a qualified historic site license that would allow alcohol sales at the 105-year-old Boone Tavern Hotel, officials said.
Berea College owns the historic tavern, which, despite its name, has been dry since opening in 1905 to serve guests at the college and visitors to Berea.
Judge Wilson, general counsel for the college, said Wednesday that a timetable for filing a license application has not yet been established.
But he said it usually takes 60 to 90 days for the state ABC board to act on an application, which could allow sales at the Boone Tavern starting in early fall.
Berea's board of trustees gave the go-ahead to seek a license in February, after gathering input from faculty, students, staff, and the community.
Several factors went into the college's decision, Wilson said.
He said they include the fact that policies prohibiting alcohol on the Berea College campus will not be affected, ensuring the Boone Tavern Hotel's continued economic viability, and providing hospitality for its guests.
"Most of the traveling public today are used to walking into a fine hotel and being able to order a drink," he said. "And people have been asking for that at the Boone Tavern for years."
Some Berea College students work at the Boone Tavern, but they wouldn't be serving alcohol, Wilson said. Servers must be at least 20 years old under state law.
"It's better handled by professionals," Wilson said. "It's a non-issue for our students and does not affect our campus rules with respect to alcohol or drugs."
The Kentucky General Assembly approved legislation in 2007 allowing local-option elections in precincts with sites that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places and also have restaurants and lodging.
The Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill has offered alcohol sales under a historic-site license since the legislation went into effect.
Voters in the East Berea Precinct approved limited alcoholic beverage sales at locations meeting the historic designation during an election in 2012.
The Boone Tavern Hotel and Churchill Weavers, which are in the East Berea precinct, are listed in the national historic places registry.
Berea College was founded in 1855 by abolitionist John Gregg Fee, who also was an ardent member of the temperance movement.
The college's charter includes language against slave holding and the application of sectarian tests in selecting board members and teachers, but it doesn't expressly prohibit alcohol.